What’s in store for kids in rural places during the summer? Will they return to school having a summer at home and no enrichment? Or will they return with nothing to talk about other than an enforced belief that as soon as they are old enough, they are leaving to never return?
Summer is a critical time of the year for kids. Their expectations are high. Many are looking for jobs while others dream of a vacation to Disney World, a featured park where there are rides and games, and plenty of snow cones, ice cream, hotdogs and French fries. The images of summer they have are born out of what it means to be a child. Geography does not define the love a child has for summer neither does parental vocation and their ability to afford what they imagine. Kids simply yearn to breath in the sounds, smells and experiences of summer.
Sadly enough, most kids in rural places will live through summer without having any of the experiences they dreamed about; while class instructions were being emphasized, they were summer dreaming. While most dream, a community fails to. The best kids will have is a summer full of little they dreamed about and plenty of opportunities to act out in the public square in a way that causes long-term trouble if caring adults do not get involved and do something.
Kids are valuable community assets. In rural places where there are few assets that are invaluable, kids represent a sector of community that has potential far beyond their present rating. Most kids value work and are creatively entrepreneurial. The influences of the technologies with its charts and graphs and researched perspectives, would say otherwise. However, they are not the lazy; no good, visionless beings with parents gouging public supports that they are made to appear. Kid dialogue is a worthwhile undertaking. Asking them critical questions about their particular interest will provide the fodder needed to engage them in meaningful work. Communities of need can make a difference. There are enough creative ways to engage the minds, hearts and spirit of kids around tasks that are significant enough to keep them from activities that harm and not help, while at the same time, there is earning power that both, they and the community respects.
Households in rural communities individually, and collectively, have the resources to help kids work during the summer. Car garages, kitchen cabinets, lawns, windows, and car detailing is just a few activities that are worth contracting services with a kid during the summer. It is not the bundles of money that keeps kids happy; it’s the money in their pockets to meet recreational and other incidental needs that make all the difference. Negotiating an amount for project work and the frequency of the work to be done, will prove quite valuable. If you are a parent with kids, in particular, teenage kids, contract services with them. It is no longer enough to say you provide for them already and should not have to “pay” them.
All kids, no matter who they are, need work that will pay something. Work is a life skill that must be learned so they can eventually earn a living and not be dependent on public supports that stymie gifts given, to take care of their needs and the future needs of their family. Performance expectation is a way of ensuring your child understands the nature of the arrangement. Their performance could determine rate and frequency of hire. Understood is that if you live in a community of need, you may not have the resources to make this happen for your kids. But if you can, then do it. If you cannot, then consider other family, friends, neighbors and then traditional work places. The message here is that there must be an all-out attack on joblessness for kids able to work and that attack, begins with you.
To emphasize once more, it is understood that rural places have fewer jobs so, they must be created. What better way to create jobs than by families and families hiring family or better yet, go for entrepreneurial. Kids have amazing ideas about a number of things. Consider starting a community-based business interest among a child or children; it could morph into an enterprise none could have imagined. And, if you do not have kids, then consider nieces, nephews, cousins, responsible, trustworthy neighbors’ kids. Either way, employment for rural youth must become the responsibility of the entire community.
Churches making room in their summer budget for at least a week per child for age appropriate kids in their congregation is an imperative. Prepping budgets before the summer is the ideal but if that has not been done, move forward anyway. Fundraisers and supporters who underwrite the cost, is a community outreach effort that will find support among the countless. Employment needs could range from creating Sunday bulletins, helping plan summer activities to include vacation Bible School to putting together a church database purging lists of members and updating membership contact information, building websites to online marketing of churches and or organizations at a rate that is affordable.
It is time for a mass employment of kids by family and community to help offset the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas. The task is not impossible nor is it a daunting conceptualization of possibility. The reality of such potential is just an agreement away. Communities have amazed the doubtful countless times and so can rural communities. The naysayers predict rural places to sit around waiting for subsidized handouts.
Waiting around for public subsidies to do the work communities can do is no longer possible. The era for empathy for the poor is over. Everyone is being called to pull up bootstraps, even if they have none. Traditional businesses in local communities are being asked to get involved as well. Does it matter whether you employ family, friend or new acquaintant? The answer lies in the “ask.” The “ask” is that if you have the ability to employ a young person over the summer, then do so. The time to take charge of what happens in rural places, with rural kids, is now, this summer, not next year. The little that you have may not be the ideal, but it is just enough to demonstrate your resolve to make summer work happen for kids in your own community. Then next year, with the months in between then and summer, you’ll be better prepared to meet the challenge and kids will be more thrilled than ever, that their skills meet needs and their worth is valued far greater than ever expected in a rural place they never expected would invest.